Any expat living in Mexico will tell you that one of the greatest things about expat life is that every day is an adventure, without even trying. Living in Mexico doesn’t require big money or even physicality, but it has all the critical elements of adventure.
When I was a young adult, my mother would listen to my exploits and say, “When you get older, you are going to so bored with your life after doing all this.”
I wasn’t cave diving or surfing the Great Barrier Reef, just mountain biking and skiing, and moving around a lot, normal activities for people my age. But deep inside I heard a voice inside saying I might have a problem someday.
And, just like my mother said, when I had neither the youth to participate in sports at the same level nor the desire to throw money at creating contrived adventure, I began to get bored. For several years, I thought “I guess that was it.”
In my subsequent search for remedies that didn’t involve paragliding or rappelling, this is what I discovered about creating more adventure in your life over 50.
1. Increasing adventure can be as simple as increasing your awareness.
Buddhist meditation sharpens your ability be mindful, more aware of sensation and the moment. Once you learn how to appreciate the smell of an orange or the wind in your hair, you can become more alive in random moments of the day.
Meditation, which focuses on each individual breath, was the first step in re-calibrating my sense of adventure to the moment. The more relaxed lifestyle in Mexico makes it even easier to exist in a moment.
2. Adventure can exist in a microcosm, just like in the movie "Men in Black."
About five years ago, I underwent fairly serious surgery and recuperation required walking around my neighborhood, a plain vanilla suburb that depressed the heck out of me.
One day, my then-boyfriend went with me and being the former Boy Scout he was, began exploring for spiders. The level of wonder and enthusiasm he demonstrated in the task stuck with me.
Although he could never afford travel or expensive outdoor activities, he would describe his life as one of great adventure. Remember that scene in Men in Black, where the cat wore a collar from which hung a marble that contained a universe? He saw that.
Coupled with meditation, I too began to see adventure in microcosms that exist everywhere.
3. Adventure is inextricably tied to hardship.
One of the biggest reasons adventure leaves our lives is because we become increasingly unwilling to bear discomfort. We have learned how to avoid it even at the expense of potential great memories.
The only solution is to not think about the possible discomfort; the heat, the dirt or the hardness of the mattress. Just do it (and then complain while you do it, like I sometimes do). Living in Mexico isn't always margaritas and sunsets, there are inconveniences too.
4. “Bad choice. Great story.”
Sometimes I still do things that I know Dr. Phil or even my best friends would advise against. Not that they are inherently bad moves; they’re just not the safest ones. “In the end,” they say, “All we have are our stories.” Don't be afraid of the story. Take the occasional calculated risk.
5. The more the money, the less the adventure?
I have done it both ways and it would be disingenuous to say luxury sucks. But doing a little less than you can afford sometimes can add excitement and an element of the unexpected (i.e. mosh pits rather than reserved seating can be fun).
If I was loaded, I'd probably still be in the U.S. full-time but I can't imagine even high-dollar trips taking the place of the adventure that living in another country is.
6. Adventure involves process.
Anything that involves just looking is probably not an adventure. While the world is full of breathtaking sights to see, the adventure is usually in the getting to them; the journey, not the destination. The process of learning Spanish, a type of journey in itself, added even greater adventure to moving to Mexico.
7. Real adventure improves you somehow.
You should come away from an adventure with a new skill set, a new way of looking at things, insight into your capabilities or even insight to your limitations. Living in Mexico, or any other country, gives you all of those things.
8. Adventure breaks routine.
Too much routine poisons our existence. Traveling back to the States now and then when you are an expat breaks up the routine that even Mexico could become. In juxtaposition, each place is more of an adventure because neither has the chance to become too routine.
9. People themselves can be adventures.
When we get older, we become very comfortable in our friendships, but if your friends no longer ever surprise you, you might need to break out of your social comfort zone.
Try to always be developing at least one new relationship. In Mexico, developing friendships with Mexicans has been a huge adventure.
10. Adventure involves an unsure outcome.
Meticulously planned vacations are usually not adventures, while starting a business, is. (So is making candy if you’ve never done it before). Taking on adventure means conceding the possibility of failure, imperfection and embarrassment.
11. Adventure explores of unknown territory.
Adventure explores unknown territory, whether you're exploring the unknown territory of the wilderness or the unknown territory of your heart.
“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching.”
Gerard Arthur Way
I am a partner with Ventanas Mexico which provides insight and resources to those considering expat life in Mexico, including "If Only I Had a Place" on renting here.
I also authored the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online," a curation of the best Spanish language tools on the web. Thinking about a Spanish speaking country for retirement? Save yourself a "monton" of frustration and start learning now.